ORLANDO, Fla. – Shared interests in numerous cross-border issues affecting importation of fresh produce have lead to plans for a regional trade conference this March in McAllen, Texas.

The Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and Mission-based Texas Produce Association plan a three-day meeting this spring involving U.S. and Mexican groups with a stake in fruit and vegetable trade.

“There’s an unprecedented level of support from the U.S. and Mexico,” Lance Jungmeyer, FPAA president, said during an Oct. 16 press conference announcing the effort at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010 convention.

“As globalization occurs, there’s an increasing need for specialty regional conferences,” said TPA president John McClung.

The two regional associations have sought input and support in planning the meeting from trade groups on both sides of the border, including PMA; the United Fresh Produce Association; Western Growers; Canada's Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp.; Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food; Confederación de Asociaciones Agrícolas del Estado de Sinaloa; and Mexican Association of Greenhouse and Shade Growers.

“The Texas and Arizona associations recognize that each of these groups has experience, knowledge and capabilities that we don’t have,” Jungmeyer said.

Fruit and vegetable shipments from Mexico to the U.S. are a $5.5 billion a year business, McClung said, adding that Texas and Arizona account for 90% of that business.

“Growth in the importation of Mexican produce shows no signs of abating, and in fact we expect to see significantly increased volumes in the years ahead,” Jungmeyer said.

Among the pressing concerns affecting both ports of entry the conference aims to bring attention to are ensuring adequate infrastructure and inspection service staffing, he said.

Activities planned for the conference are tours of the port of entry, educational workshops and a golf tournament, McClung said.